Marta Hansen's exterior design reveals its three pavilions and the hyphens that connect them.
The hyphen that leads to the kitchen and back staircase is lined with bookshelves.
The living room offers a cozy space to lounge before the fireplace.
A wide maple staircase embellished with ebony leads up to the second floor.
From the porch behind the house, the Bay Bridge is visible in the distance.
The dark-stained, modern kitchen shares space with the dining area.
The master bedroom provides a glimpse of the Patapsco River.
On the second floor, a bridge connects two of the pavilions below a steeply sloped ceiling.

Farmhouse Redux

Architect Marta Hansen riffs on traditional forms in a sprawling vacation retreat on Chesapeake Bay

Maryland’s Eastern Shore is home to many an old, white clapboard farmhouse. It was one of these structures that inspired a Northern Virginia couple after they purchased 16 waterfront acres near Annapolis and were looking to build a vacation house. “We used to live in Deale and I always passed it,” recalls the wife of the traditional farmhouse which was composed of three separate volumes. “I thought, ‘That’s what I want.’”

However, while she “was partial to white clapboard,” she and her husband were interested in something a bit more modern than the house that had inspired them. The couple turned to Annapolis-based architect Marta Hansen, who understood their vision immediately. She obtained a picture of the abandoned structure and used it as a jumping-off point to design what she (and the couple) refers to as an abstracted farmhouse. Like the original, the new structure has three distinct parts to it, but they exist within a more contemporary vernacular. 

At 6,100 square feet, the new home fulfills the owners’ list of requirements: It had to look like it belonged in its setting; each main-floor room had to admit light from three sides; and every room throughout the home had to maximize the views. The couple had chosen the property because it offered views of the Bay Bridge at night and of the region’s brilliant waterfront sunsets; they wanted to enjoy them. 

Hansen’s design deftly interpreted the original farmhouse structure into something fresh and new. With the help of Easton-based contractor Jay Chance, she created three volumes which she terms pavilions, connected to one another by hyphens. “Each pavilion serves a different function,” she explains. The house is spread out and the hyphens provide “an attenuated floor plan that yields more daylight and better ventilation.” In keeping with Hansen’s program, landscape architect Jay Graham created a simple yet elegant landscape plan. Courtyards between the pavilions bring natural light to three sides of each pavilion and a picturesque view from each window, while creating welcoming outdoor gathering places.

The center pavilion houses the entry, front staircase and spacious living room. To the left, another pavilion encompasses the kitchen and adjoining dining area, mudroom, garage and back staircase. To the right, the third pavilion houses the master suite. Areas for outdoor entertainment abound with a wide porch off the living room that leads directly down to the pool, patios off the master bedroom and dining area, and a screened porch off the kitchen.

Both hyphens have sets of windows that offer direct views from the front of the property through to the back and down to the water. One-and-a-half-story, built-in shelves and clapboard siding clad the interior walls, setting the hyphens apart visually from the rest of the house. The homeowners display their collection of model sailing ships and books on the shelves. 

Upstairs, Hansen ingeniously designed open bridges within the hyphens to connect the second floors of each pavilion. The bridges, with peaked, two-story ceilings visible just above them, add a modern edge. They were also an engineering challenge, says contractor Jay Chance, who had to ensure they were supported by both visible and concealed steel beams. “There was so much detail in the project,” he recalls. “A lot of work went into the details.”

The second floor of the center pavilion houses an office area for the wife and a wood-paneled study for the husband, complete with stained-oak built-ins that Chance’s team crafted on-site. Above the kitchen, a full guest suite with its own kitchenette accommodates privacy-minded guests, while above the master suite there are two more guest bedrooms, each with its own bath, that sit at the ready for both children and grandchildren. 

Throughout the house, the windows measure six feet high and three feet wide, and they’re placed close together to take advantage of the views. The windows have moldings and mullions in the traditional vernacular, yet their scale and placement denote a modern edge. “We abstracted the traditional forms,” Hansen says. “‘Traditional’ no longer fits our lifestyles the way it once did. This house is more in keeping with the way we live today.”  

Photographer Celia Pearson is based in Annapolis, Maryland.

ARCHITECTURE: MARTA HANSEN, AIA, LEED AP, Hansen Architects, Annapolis, Maryland. CONTRACTOR: JAY CHANCE, Chance and Associates, Inc., Easton, Maryland. LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE: JAY GRAHAM, FASLA, Graham Landscape Architecture, Annapolis, Maryland.